Australian Open 2012: Power Ranking Best Matches Fans Must See

Carlos TorresContributor IJanuary 15, 2012

Australian Open 2012: Power Ranking Best Matches Fans Must See

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    Who will be the winners of the Australian Open? That is the main question every tennis fan has right now as the opening rounds of the year's first Grand Slam nears.

    First round action on both the men's and women's singles competition kicks off Monday and will continue on Tuesday

    There are plenty of great matches to see. The defending champions Novak Djokovic and Kim Clijsters are playing for back-to-back titles, but the road to repeating won't be easy.

    Everyone is gunning for the win and while the top players always get most of the attention, you never know what a first round might bring, especially in the first Grand Slam of the year.

    Many players are not in top form and other players with lesser chances might be.

    There are many first round matches that are a must-see due to the possible shot at a first round upset or because the players involved are playing solid tennis.

    The following list has matches that may or may not be showed on the coverage by ESPN2 or Tennis Channel. If not, then go to the Australian Open Live Stream page and enjoy the matches. 

    Let's take a look at the list of first round matches that you must see, starting with the women's draw.

5. Jie Zheng CHN vs. Madison Keys USA

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    WHEN: Tuesday, Jan. 17th.

    WHY: China's Jie Zheng, 28, is fresh-off her win recently at the ASB Classic in Auckland.

    She defeated Svetlana Kuznetsova and Flavia Pennetta on her way to the title.

    She is up 10 positions in her ranking to 38th, and faces American teen Madison Keys for the first time.

    Keys, 16, is one of the top upcoming American young players

    Keys has the power game, but does she have the consistency to get through veteran Zheng? Let's tune in and find out.

    Possible matches should either keep advancing would be against ninth seed Marion Bartoli and US Open Champ and sixth seed Samantha Stosur.

4. Kaia Kanepi EST (27) vs. Johanna Larsson SWE

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    WHEN: Tuesday, Jan. 17th.

    WHY: Estonian Kaia Kanepi, 26, has seen her ranking go back up to 26th in the world after winning the title of the first top tournament of the year at Brisbane.

    Kanepi defeated 2010 French Open winner Francesca Schiavone, Andrea Petkovic and Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova fairly easily in that tournament.

    Those players were all ranked in the top 16 in that tournament.

    She will face Sweden's Johanna Larsson, 23, for the first time in her career. Larsson is ranked 59th in the world.

    Should Kanepi make it to the third round, she could possibly meet seventh seed, Russia's Vera Zvonareva.

3. Jelena Jankovic SRB (13) vs. Laura Robson GRB

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    WHEN: Monday, Jan 16th.

    WHY: Former world No. 1, Serbian Jelena Jankovic, 26, looks like an overwhelming favorite over British qualifier Laura Robson, 17.

    Jankovic defeated Robson in two contested straight sets at Wimbledon in 2010.

    Robson gave Maria Sharapova a run for her money at Wimbledon last year, and is one of Britain's top young players. She just cruised through the qualifying draw.

    Robson is a young and talented player on the rise who is not easily intimidated. And Jankovic, while still is a Top 15 player, is not what she once was.

    They will on Margaret Court Arena on Monday, and the chance for an upset is possible.

2. Vera Zvonareva RUS (7) vs. Alexandra Dulgheru ROU

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    WHEN: Tuesday, Jan 17th.

    WHY: Seventh seed Vera Zvonareva, 27, has beaten Romanian Alexandra Dulgheru, 22, handily both times they have played.

    But Zvonareva is not at her best at the moment, and in the past has been the victim of early exits in tournaments.

    Dulgheru comes from playing the Apia International in Sydney, where she played second seed and Wimbledon Champ Petra Kvitova to three tough sets.

    It's all about momentum, and Zvonareva needs to play well if she is to avoid an early exit.

    That is enough to watch this match and it should be closer than expected.

1. Samantha Stosur AUS (6) vs. Sorana Cirstea ROU

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    WHEN: Tuesday, Jan. 17th

    WHY: US Open Champion Samantha Stosur, 27, is another seeded player that comes into the Australian Open not in her top form.

    Sorana Cirstea, 21, has not been upsetting the world's top players, but recently she has been improving and getting close in matches in her losses to the top players.

    Given that it was in 2010 and indoors, but Cirstea upset Stosur the last time they met. Thus, she will not be afraid of going for the upset.

    Here is another match where the favorite—Stosur—must not blink or let her guard down.

    And in Stosur's case, she has all the expectations and the pressure on her. She is in front of her home crowd.

    Enough said, this is a must-see match.

5. Juan Monaco ARG (25) vs. Philipp Kohlschreiber GER

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    WHEN: Monday, Jan. 16th.

    WHY: Juan Monaco, 27, is the 23rd seed, but has a tough opening matchup in Germany's Philipp Kohlschreiber.

    Kohlschreiber, 28, is ranked 42nd in the world. He has reached the fourth round twice in the Australian Open and never lost in the first round.

    He is coming off reaching the semifinals at the Heineken Open at Auckland.

    Monaco hasn't play since being smoked by Rafael Nadal at the beginning of December in the Davis Cup.

    But before that, he had wins over David Ferrer and Mardy Fish.

    They have played three times before, but it's been a long time since their last in 2008.

    This could be a match that can go five sets, and the seed may be shown the door early.

4. Fernando Verdasco ESP (22) vs. Bernard Tomic AUS

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    WHEN: Monday, Jan. 16th.

    WHY: A matchup between a 22nd seed and an unseeded player at Rod Laver Arena. They have to be good.

    Or you are the highest ranked player—and biggest promise in years—from Australia. That is the case with 19-year-old Bernard Tomic.

    He is currently ranked 37th in the world and faces Spain's Fernando Verdasco in the first round.

    Left-handed Verdasco, 28, is seeded 22nd and took Tomic to school the only other time they played—two years ago.

    Among the recent losses Verdasco has had are against Richard Gasquet and Tomas Berdych.

    Berdych was among Tomic's victims at the AAMI Classic recently. Gael Monfils and Mardy Fish were the others. Two Top 10 players beaten by Tomic in the tournament.

    Tomic is the highest ranked player to face a seeded player, and a tough one for Verdasco. Another seed that could have an early exit.

3. Andy Roddick USA (15) vs. Robin Haase NED

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    WHEN: Tuesday, Jan 17th.

    WHY: Andy Roddick is on the down slope of his career. He is 29 years old and trying anything—including a new hairdo—to win his second Grand Slam.

    He is facing Dutchman Robin Haase, 24, in the Australian Open for the second year in a row.

    Last year they faced in the third round. Roddick dropped a set to Haase before taking the second in a tie-breaker, and then ran away with the next two.

    If Roddick is slowing down, and Haase gave him all he can handle last year, this year could be closer and maybe the upset can be delivered.

    And no matter what, with Roddick's antics, you never know what to expect lately. You don't want to miss an opportunity to see what he can come up with next.

2. Jo-Wilfried Tsonga FRA (6) vs. Denis Istomin UZB

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    WHEN: Tuesday, Jan. 17th.

    WHY: Two players that reach the Australian Open on different paths.

    Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, 26, is seeded sixth and won the Qatar ExxonMobil Open at Doha at the beginning of the year.

    He then struggled badly on his recent showing at the AAMI Classic at Kooyong, losing to Jurgen Melzer and Ken Nishikori.

    Denis Istomin, 25, is up to 67th in the world thanks to his recent play.

    He reached the quarters at the Brisbane International and the semis at the Apia International in Sydney.

    While Tsonga has defeated Istomin both times in his career, he is a streaky player, and right now, his streak is on the negative.

    That could open the door for a player that is playing very well and could take him out.

    Even then, Tsonga is the kind of player that always puts on a show, and with a good rival, this is a match to watch.

1. Andy Murray GRB (4) vs. Ryan Harrison USA

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    WHEN: Tuesday, Jan. 17th.

    WHY: Andy Murray, 24, cannot underestimate his first round opponent, American teenager Ryan Harrison.

    It will be the first time they meet.

    But Harrison, 19, is currently ranked 84 in the world and has long been touted as one of the game’s brightest prospects.

    The big hitting Harrison has shown determination and passion for the game. He has been constantly improving throughout last year.

    He may not be quite ready to upset Murray, but this is a match worth watching due to the potential on it.

    Everyone also wants to see what new coach Ivan Lendl has been able to do with Murray in the short time they have been together.

    Out of the matches of the Top Four seeds, this is the match that has the most potential to produce high quality tennis.